Ancient ruins and pyramids aren't typically something you think of when you think about Texas or American history, but that's exactly what you'll find when you visit the Caddo Mounds State Historic Site in East Texas near Nacogdoches and Alto.
Built by Native Americans known as the Hasinai people (also called the Caddo Indians or Caddo Nation) between 850 and 900 A.D. after they migrated south from the Red River area of Oklahoma, the site initially featured about 40 houses that surrounded Mound A, the first and ultimately largest mound. The Hasinai actually built mounds all over the region, including Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma.
The Caddoan Mounds are actually part of a larger Mississippi peoples know as great mound builders. Some of their mounds were extremely large pyramid-type structures such as the ones at Cahokia in Illinois.
The first two earthen mounds built by the Caddo people (Mound A and Mound B) built at the Caddo Mounds site were used as temple mounds and residences for the community's elite members, while the third mound, Mound C, was a burial mound.
In 1919, James Edwin Pearce was the first archeologist to officially record the site, though several hundred years earlier Spaniard Athanase de Mézières recorded the site while traveling from Louisiana to San Antonio in Spanish Tejas. Since then scientific excavations have been done by researches from the University of Texas, Stephen F. Austin University, and other Texas state universities and historic institutions. Today the site is run by the Texas Historical Commission.
Unfortunately, on April 13th, 2019, while celebrating Caddo Day, two tornados hit the Caddo Mounds site. The Caddo Mounds tornado wrecked the site, injuring between 30 to 40 people and killing one. The visitor center and several other buildings at the state park were heavily damaged.
At present, the site is currently closed because of the tornado damage. There is no timetable for re-opening at present but the site does plan to become open to the public again. You can donate to the Caddo Mounds recovery efforts here.